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Chile: Student protests 2.0

An estimated 180 000 students and teachers took to the streets of the Chilean capital on 16 April in a massive protest for structural education reforms and against corruption. Under the slogan “More democracy and less corruption, let Chile decide its education,” protesters voiced the discontent of a whole nation against the corrupt practices that have come to tarnish the entire political class as one scandal after another has been unveiled in recent weeks. These scandals, the most notorious of which saw fiscal funds redirected into political campaigns during the last elections, have generated a sense of deep distrust in the way the country is governed. Students in particular have grown increasingly sceptical of the transparency and democracy of the long-awaited education reforms, which are expected to take place in the second half of Bachelet’s term (2014-2018). Valentina Saavedra, spokesperson for the association of students that called for the manifestation, said in a speech: “We must reclaim politics, and take the future of Chile in our hands, starting from the basis we have no doubts about: Constructing a new public education system.”

The long-awaited education reform is one of the three pillars of President Bachelet’s agenda for her second term in office. Designed to put an end to three ills in the Chilean education system –selectivity, co-pay, and “profit”– the reform, which also foresees eliminating tuition fees at public universities, is still in its early stages. Students and other stakeholders have been critical of the reform since the beginning, and now, the former are putting their foot down, demanding a greater participation in the process. The 16 April manifestation has been one of the largest since the student protests of 2011. If the Chileans’ discontent over the latest political scandals continues to unite the population in action and not apathy, the reform might become a more accurate reflection of what the majority truly wants for the country: A better, more just education system, for a less segregated society. 

El País (Spanish)